Behind Manhattan College’s #SocialMedia

“Alright, let’s stop here for today. See you all next class.” In one fluid motion students snap their books shut and whip out their cell phones as they walk into the hallway.

In today’s social media-obsessed world, this scene plays out hourly at universities across the country as college students seemingly can’t put their phones down for long. After all, with over 5,000 tweets and nearly 1,000 new Instagram photos being posted worldwide every second, there is a lot to catch up on after sitting in class for a mere 50 minutes.

Over the past few years Manhattan College has worked to keep up with the seemingly ever-increasing role social media plays in our society and grown its own online presence—much of it due to the efforts of Julie Achilles, assistant director of web communications.

“My job has been to really build those [social media] channels out and get with the times,” Achilles said.

Achilles is responsible for maintaining the college’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Youtube accounts. Julie Achilles/Courtesy

When she started working in the college’s Marketing and Communication office five years ago, the college’s social media presence was limited to only a YouTube channel with just a few videos posted online.

Now she works to keep the college’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube accounts updated on a regular basis—creating content and making sure to engage with users across the various platforms.

“It’s mostly Julie. It’s like 95 percent Julie,” Annie Chambliss, director of web communications, said when giving credit to Achilles for managing the college’s social media accounts in addition on top of producing all of the in-house videography.

While the department does occasionally have other staff members and student workers take assignments and cover events, the majority of the posting falls to Achilles.

“It is a 24 hour a day job,” she said. “I am at home on my phone sometimes answering people about say the broken elevator in Jasper Hall.”

Limiting that responsibility to Achilles and just a few others helps ensure the college’s accounts are consistent day-after-day in both content and quality.

“It’s easier to keep it amongst a tight-knit group,” Achilles said, “because then we have the same voice and tone whatever messaging goes out, rather than farm it out to students or other people.”

Weekly editorial meetings within the department help plan out what exactly will be covered in the college’s official Facebook posts, Twitter messages and other social media work.

While it is easy to plan on posting about annual events such as commencement and the recent activities fair, other inspirations for content pop up on a daily basis as life takes place on campus and news develops.

The college’s Twitter account. Sean Sonnemann/The Quadrangle

Achilles also spends time not just creating original content but also making sure to respond to users who tweet at or comment on the college’s posts online—at times in the form of complaints or negative feedback.

“Julie does a particularly good job of doing that and being responsive to things,” Chambliss said. “I think some institutions, colleges or companies even, don’t necessarily respond as actively as we do to things like that—the not-as-pleasant tweets that happen.”

Whether it is a student complaining about a skunk walking around the quad or Wi-Fi being down in one of the dorms, Achilles tries to do her best to respond and point to someone who can help the situation.

“I am happy to feed along information to the proper people with power to solve those problems,” she said. “But it can be a little frustrating when I am taking the brunt of someone’s argument or a ‘why don’t we have a snow day today’ kind of thing.”

Over the years she has learned not to take the complaints and angry responses personally.

“A lot of times people don’t understand that it’s just me behind a computer.”

Despite the occasional vitriol from frustrated users, Achilles appreciates being behind a significant portion of the college’s online presence.   

“I find it an enjoyable part of my job. I’ve always enjoyed using social media, so having it be a real tool for the college is fun.”

To accomplish their work online, the office relies on social media management programs that include TweetDeck and Sprout Social. In addition to making it easier to create content, they often receive feedback and data that helps better target and improve their posts.

Recently they have seen the shift of older users to Facebook and often use that platform to reach parents and alumni with more long-form content.

Conversely, current and prospective students are more active on Twitter and Instagram where visual, photo-heavy short-form content is more prevalent.

While it can be challenging to balance providing information to such different audiences, the growth of department specific social media accounts around the college has been a large help.

For example, Residence Life can inform students about floor programming taking place in a certain residence hall and similar niche announcements too narrow in scope for the college’s general social media accounts.

The new college website also works to incorporate these department and office specific social media feeds directly onto their respective webpages.

“It keeps the new website a lot more live with the social feeds with no additional work for everyone—which is great,” Chambliss said.

Chambliss and Achilles work with other staff members around the college who are interested in creating their own social media pages, providing best practices tips and branded profile photos complete with the college logo.

They are also constantly working to expand their existing platforms and keep up with the latest trends online. With the increased hardware capacity of smartphones, photos and videos are becoming a greater portion of their work.

“Social has become much more visual, and that’s something that we can capitalize on our campus because we have such a beautiful campus and a lot of really good things to photograph,” Chambliss said.

That includes working on a Manhattan College Snapchat account that they hope to launch next semester, as well as exploring emerging tools such as virtual reality and 360-degree photos.

“It [social media] is such a dynamic thing that’s always changing and evolving,” Chambliss said. “There are new channels but even within existing channels there are new features and new ways to approach content. That will just always be the case.”

While working extensively in the field of social media was not something Achilles envisioned when she graduated from Temple University in 2011 with a degree in broadcast journalism, she is confident it is here to stay.

“It naturally became a part of my job and I’m really happy to see that it stayed, it’s not just been a fad but a trend in communicating with people.”